October 16, 2008

Crotched Mountain Foundation Goes the Extra Mile

Crotched Mountain.jpg


Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center has a bold plan to increase outdoor recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. This article describes one part of the vision:

Off of Crotched Mountain Road across from the main campus of Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, a sign marks a side road as restricted access. Beyond the sign, universal hiking trail builder Peter Jensen and his crew are working to make the area accessible to absolutely everyone.

"Coming out of a conversation with parents, there was a desire to create opportunities for recreation for everyone," says Michael Redmond, vice president for the advancement of the Crotched Mountain Foundation. "As we got thinking about it, that was exactly where we wanted to be, a place where everyone could come and enjoy the outdoors."

DAVE EISENSTADTER
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Staff
October 14. 2008 8:35AM

GREENFIELD -- Off of Crotched Mountain Road across from the main campus of Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, a sign marks a side road as restricted access. Beyond the sign, universal hiking trail builder Peter Jensen and his crew are working to make the area accessible to absolutely everyone.

"Coming out of a conversation with parents, there was a desire to create opportunities for recreation for everyone," says Michael Redmond, vice president for the advancement of the Crotched Mountain Foundation. "As we got thinking about it, that was exactly where we wanted to be, a place where everyone could come and enjoy the outdoors."

For the past year, Jensen and his crew have been working on creating a trail that will eventually stretch all the way to the summit of Crotched Mountain. It will allow small children, senior citizens and people confined to wheelchairs a pathway through the woods.

"It's designed according to federal guidelines," Jensen says, walking along the trail. "It undulates along with plenty of opportunities to rest along the way."

According to Jensen, the majority of the trail is at an incline of less than five percent. For short sections, the trail gets a bit steeper, but no more than eight and a third percent. These specs are in accordance with guidelines developed over 10 years by the United States Forest Service. Jensen served on the committee that determined those guidelines.

Along the trail, hikers will get to see huge boulders, have opportunities to touch bark and to hear babbling brooks. Jensen says he tries to provide a memorable narrative when he builds a trail.

"All of these things have meaning," Jensen says, pointing out upturned trees and describing an underground brook that hikers will hear but not see later down the trail. "That's what it's about, making an experience for the hiker."

Jensen says that by building trails that are accessible to everyone, more people will be encouraged to enjoy nature, particularly children, many of whom, he says, suffer from "nature deficit disorder" growing up.

"Children need to get back out into the woods and adults need to let them, or to take them," Jensen says. "This trail is ideal for family outings."

Built with remaining material from work on Crotched Mountain's new maintenance building, the trail is a natural surface trail -- packed dirt and gravel rather than blacktop.

"The material has to weather for a year," Jensen says. "Leaves settle in and become a part of the fabric of the trail."

According to Jensen, the trail is designed to be durable and hold up against rain and other drainage issues.

Don Shumway, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Crotched Mountain Foundation, says that the trail, which is on private property, will be open for public use. There will be no charge to use the trail except possibly a small fee for parking.

"Families might be able to travel to the Monadnock area for a vacation and know that everyone could participate in the things they love," Shumway says. "It's meant to be a high quality recreational amenity. It is here and they could rely on it to be a great experience for their family."

Redmond says outdoor accessibility began at Crotched Mountain in 2004 with the construction of an accessible tree house. A 150-foot ramp that moves between a series of oak trees leads to the house, which is 18 feet in the air.

"It's been a great addition to our campus and also a symbol," Redmond says. "When you think about the outdoors, you can think about things everyone can enjoy. We think the trails are the same way. Anyone who walks on them can think of their universal design."

Redmond says the first segment of the trail will be opened some time next year, and will consist of a loop trail around a wetland area that straddles the Greenfield/Francestown town line. Eventually, the system will consist of four miles worth of trails.

According to Redmond, the whole project will cost $2 million, and more than $600,000 has been raised already through donations and grants, including a $250,000 grant from New Hampshire's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program. Donations are still being accepted, Redmond says.

The Crotched Mountain Foundation has worked with town boards and conservation commissions, securing permits and wetlands crossings.

"We're pleased with the support they have given us," Redmond says. "They have realized this is a special opportunity."

Posted by rollingrains at October 16, 2008 08:49 PM